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Ziphius (Cuvier's Beaked Whale)

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Scientific Classification
Cuvier3

Kingdom

Animalia

Phylum

Chordata

Class

Mammalia

Order

Cetacea

Family

Ziphiidae

Genus

Ziphius

Species

Ziphius sp.

In Medieval folklore, the Ziphius, or “Water-Owl”, was a monstrous nautical creature said to attack ships in the northern seas, as seen in the gallery below. It possessed the body of a fish and the head of an owl, complete with massive eyes and a wedge-shaped beak. “Ziphius”, meaning “sword-like” in Latin, may refer to the beast’s fin, which was said to pierce the hulls of ships like a sword.

Today, the inspiration for the Ziphius is known as Cuvier’s Beaked Whale, a widespread species of beaked whale. Also known as the Goose-beaked whale, this creature is found as far north as the Shetland Islands (a part of Scotland) and as south as Tierra Del Fuego at the tip of South America. It is the only member of the genus Ziphius, which bears the name of its legendary identity. Some additionally attribute the inspiration of the Ziphius to the orca or the great white shark, based on some depictions of the beast as a predator to pinnipeds.

Gallery

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